Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

No Answers: Cavaliers vs Warriors Game 2, Behind the Box Score

The Cleveland Cavaliers had no answers for the Golden State Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals as the Warriors ran away with the game to take a 2-0 series lead.

Cleveland Cavaliers 77
Golden State Warriors 110

[Box Score]

In theory this series isn’t over. For those choosing to be optimistic still, they can argue that all the Golden State Warriors have done is exactly what they’re supposed to do in winning two home games. The Cleveland Cavaliers still have three home games and two more chances to steal one in Oakland. And for a template, they can look at the way the Cavaliers demolished the Toronto Raptors in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals before dropping the next two in Toronto.

The problem, of course, is that the Raptors still lost that series. And the Cavaliers aren’t a 73-9 team that destroyed the league all season long. The Cavaliers came into Game 2 of these NBA Finals looking to find their footing and get back into the series. Unfortunately, they didn’t come close to realizing those hopes as the Warriors pretty much did whatever they wanted to again and used their suffocating defense to frustrate the Cavaliers all night. And that frustration is palpable. With every Golden State basket, the Cavalier players are hanging their heads, yelling at each other, pointing at each other, shrugging their shoulders, and basically doing everything but focusing on just getting into the offense quickly and with purpose and trying again on defense the next possession. It’s staggering as fans because the Cavaliers played such good basketball in these playoffs, and now they look completely lost. It’s frustrating for fans and it’s frustrating for the players. 

But this is what the Warriors do. They are so dynamic on both sides of the ball, they can play any kind of lineup to adjust to what you are trying to do, and they knock down every good look they get. There’s a reason the Warriors had the best record in NBA history. Make no mistake, this is an all-time great team. No, the Cavaliers aren’t playing well, but at lot of that is because of what the Warriors are doing.

Every time the Cavaliers make a good play on offense and think they are getting a layup, the Warriors either knock the ball away or block the shot. The Warriors defend the pick and roll as well as any team in the league, taking away all the angles for passes when guys actually try cutting off the ball. Eventually, the Cavaliers get frustrated and start either settling for bad shots or spend so much time dribbling hoping someone can somehow get open. There’s a reason guys like JR Smith and Channing Frye can’t seem to get a shot in this series after lighting up the East all playoffs. The Warriors are on another level on defending what the Cavaliers try to do. 

So what’s the bright side? How do the Cavaliers get back into this series and at least compete for a game? That’s the question that seems to have no answer. Ty Lue hasn’t been able to come up with any lineups that work, and he’s slow to recognize when lineups aren’t working. But that’s the problem. What lineup is he supposed to use? Every move he makes, Steve Kerr has the counter because his team is just so versatile and able to play in so many different ways. 

The Cavaliers defense actually hasn’t been all that bad. The Warriors are going to make plays and they’re going to go on runs, and there are times guys miss a rotation or over-pursue in help defense. The real problem for Cleveland is that their offense cannot solve this Warriors defense. If the Cavaliers can’t find a way to get it going on offense, they’re done. We’ll see what they come up with for Game 3.

Now, some numbers.

8 - On paper LeBron James’ 19-point, eight-rebound, nine-assist stat line looks pretty good. But it really doesn’t tell the true story. LeBron had eight turnovers in this game and made just seven shots. That’s a staggering statistic for a player who is routinely one of the most efficient players in the league. The Cavaliers opened the game with LeBron initiating the offense instead of Kyrie Irving, and while LeBron was scoreless in the first quarter he was getting his teammates going with five assists and just one turnover. But from that point on, LeBron began to force some things, he took more bad shots, and he started turning the ball over like crazy. There’s no question that LeBron needs more from his teammates, but LeBron has been far from great so far in this series either. 

10 and 0 - Speaking of guys needing to help LeBron, as much as I defended Kyrie Irving’s Game 1, he was atrocious in Game 2 with just 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting with zero assists. Irving was non-existent in this game. With LeBron taking on a lot of the PG duties, Kyrie was relegated to a lot of standing around. And when Kyrie did get shots, he struggled making them. I said before the series I thought the Cavaliers needed Kyrie to play at a near MVP level for them to have a chance, and through two games Kyrie has been pedestrian at best. Again, the Warriors deserve a lot of credit for their defense. They are doing a phenomenal job protecting the lane and making it impossible for guys like Kyrie to find space, but this is where the Cavaliers have to adjust and adapt. And, quite frankly, Kyrie just needs to start making some shots. 

21 - Kevin Love only played 21 minutes in this game. Not because he was benched, but because of injury. In the second quarter, Love had established position and was going up for a rebound when Harrison Barnes came flying in over his back and ran his elbow directly into the back of Love’s head, sending him crumpling to the floor (no foul was called, of course). Love did stay in the game and he did come out to start the third quarter. But early in the quarter on a defensive position, Love suddenly appeared very disoriented and uneasy on his feet, and Love immediately removed himself from the game and went to the locker room, where he was put in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Losing Love would be a devastating blow to both Love personally and the Cavaliers as a team.

28 - Draymond Green absolutely killed Cleveland in this game, scoring 28 points including shooting 5-of-8 on three-pointers. A big part of why the Warriors are so tough is because every night someone else is stepping up for them. In Game 1 it was Shaun Livingston. In this game, it was Draymond. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson has a quiet 17 and 18, respectively. But they didn’t need to be huge with the way Draymond was playing in Game 2. The Cavaliers are trying desperately to keep Curry and Thompson in check as much as they can, and as a result they are often over-pursuing and Green was making them pay every time. 

18 to 10 - In the first quarter, the Warriors offense got off to a slow start, but they were staying afloat on the strength of their rebounding. They finished the game with a 46 to 34 rebounding edge, but in the first quarter is when they really dominated the glass, finishing the quarter with an 18 to 10 rebounding edge, including 7 offensive boards. It seemed to set the tone for the game as the Cavaliers simply couldn’t build any momentum with the Warriors getting second chance opportunities as well as forcing the Cavs into one-and-done possessions. 

There’s not much to really say about this series or this game. The Warriors are simply the better team. That’s not to say the Cavaliers can’t win this series, or even one game. But for that to happen, the Cavaliers need to play much, much better and they need to find something they can do to disrupt the Warriors from doing anything and everything they please. We’ll see you in Cleveland for Game 3.  

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